Thomas Edward Johnson
Oct 8, 1944 - Oct 30, 2022
East Lawn Elk Grove Memorial Park
9189 East Stockton Blvd.
Elk Grove , CA, 95624
Thomas Edward Johnson was born October 8, 1944, in Wilmer, Alabama, to James and Addie Carrie Johnson. He passed away peacefully on October 30, 2022, in Sunnyvale, California.
The third of five children, Thomas (nickname Sonny) helped support his family by “dipping turpentine” in the woods with his father and baby brother, James. Work was the family priority, often leaving him to attend school only 1 day a week. Despite this, Thomas had a love for learning and a drive to succeed that allowed him to achieve the rank of valedictorian at Rosa A Lott High School, in Citronelle, AL.
Following his father’s death at age 20, he became an emancipated minor and assumed custody of his baby brother. He leaned on his community support system to facilitate his acceptance into Tuskegee Institute, where he became a member of the Gamma Phi Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (1964) and graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering (1967). He later earned his MBA in Management and Finance at the University of Santa Clara, with continued postgraduate studies at the University of Southern California.
Rising beyond his humble beginnings, TJ, as he was affectionately known to friends and colleagues, was a loyal and dedicated career man. In 1967 he joined Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in Sunnyvale, CA as an Associate Engineer. He would take on progressive roles until his retirement as Director of the Fleet Ballistic Missile Test & Support Systems Engineering Program in 2005. Throughout his 38 years of service, he was recognized for numerous achievements, including US Black Engineer Magazine’s national nomination for Black Engineer of the Year, the National Management Association’s Silver Knight Award, the Department of the Navy’s prestigious Reliability, Maintainability, and Quality Assurance Award and his proudest professional achievement- being the 1st African American to run the FBM (nuclear missile) program.
Personally, TJ was a proud husband, father, and grandfather. He was a generous provider, determined to give his children more exposure than he had as a youth – a gift that allowed each to flourish in their own way. As one who never met a stranger, he spoke of his family often. In fact, he was known to pull out his “billfold” to share pictures and brag about their accomplishments with the most casual acquaintances.
TJ was also a devoted friend. His charismatic nature and quick wit drew people in, blessing him with many decades-long friendships.
The life of the party, TJ was in his element when surrounded by friends, playing cards, talking trash- including a few choice words, and enjoying a good gin and tonic. He also loved fast cars, traveling, and a great meal.
He is survived by his wife of thirty-one years, Vernetta Johnson, children, Shawn, Kenyon (Kenetria), and Evan Johnson, granddaughter, Kendyl Johnson, nephews, Bryan, Jahmal, and Jason Johnson and niece, Erica Garcia. He was preceded in death by his parents, James and Addie Carrie Johnson, siblings James (Peanut) Johnson, Ernest (Bill) Curtis, Joe Nichols, Addie Mae Brown, and grandchildren Kennedy Johnson and Kenyon “Deuce” Johnson, II.
His gregarious laugh, witty humor, and larger-than-life personality will be greatly missed, though never forgotten.